Evgeny Kuznetsov does a lot of things well. He’s one of the most offensively-talented hockey players in the world. But one thing Kuznetsov does not do well is carry the load defensively. And that’s okay and not a harsh criticism of Kuznetsov. No player does everything well and few players do the things they do well as good as Kuznetsov.
But Kuznetsov is a better player when he has good defensive players on his line, and that’s why the Caps new lines with TJ Oshie skating on Kuznetsov’s right wing is a good thing. As Peter wrote about over a year ago, the Caps losing Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson was going to be a tough adjustment for Kuznetsov, as the team fared much better when Kuznetsov skated with these two than without.
As you can see, with Kuznetsov on the ice since Williams and Johansson left, the Caps have struggled to limit opponent shots and haven’t had control of the puck as much.
The orange bar, shot-attempt percentage, has gone down over the last two season. That’s bad. The blue bar, opponent shot attempts per hour, has gone up over the last two seasons. That’s bad.
Enter TJ Oshie.
Over the last three seasons, Kuznetsov and Oshie have skated 481 minutes together. During this time, the Caps’ ability to play more in the offensive zone than the defensive zone has been noticeable compared to when Kuznetsov skates without Oshie.
|Kuzy with Oshie||481||53.2||51.8||66.9|
|Kuzy Without Oshie||2115||49.4||57.0||56.7|
The Caps tilt the ice when Kuznetsov skates with Oshie, gives up far fewer shots against, and own a significantly higher percentage of the goals. Putting these two together makes sense.
Some may argue that Kuznetsov is fine with or without Oshie, that his elite offensive talents doesn’t depend on his linemates. To that, a few points:
With Oshie and Tom Wilson back, the depth on the Caps right wing is solid again. With that, Kuznetsov should get a needed boost.
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